Beef (tv series) Asian Americans Behind the Scenes Part 5

Asian American creative talent wasn’t limited to the showrunner and cast. Helen Huang was the costume designer/stylist and Grace Yun was the production designer. Representation matters behind the scenes. The details add to the visual story telling.

I see a little bit of me or someone I’m close to in all the Asian American characters in Beef.

I recognized Amy Hua’s octaganal glasses. They’re from the company Dita, a pricey eyewear line that bills itself as “a discreet luxury”. I have two pairs of Dita glasses, one prescription (the round version of Amy’s) and a pair of sunglasses.

I recognized Fumi’s penchant for Issey Miyake and Japanese avant garde fashion designers. Fumi is stuck in the 1980s, when this sort of fashion was peaking and so was her late husband’s art career. Her heavy eye makeup reinforces her sense of being held hostage to past glory.

I almost bought the multi-colored Issey Miyake coat Fumi wears. Issey Miyake is my favorite fashion designer of all time. While my choices aren’t as over the top as Fumi’s, Miyake pieces make up a decent portion of my everyday clothing.

Amy’s everyday wear at home and her place of business is “white coastal grandma” with lots of light colors and oversized silhouettes. At times, I come close to this look. However, my look veers away from white grandma to “international Asian creative with a minimalist and avant garde twist”. I look like I write poetry and make my own doenjang. I also look like I don’t get dirty and sometimes shrouded in blanket. I sometimes cocoon myself or hide behind baggy clothing. But the baggy clothing sometimes has an East Asian look to it.

I have high fashion fur pieces my mother and aunt gifted me. One is a Fendi knit mink coat that most people do not assume is real fur. Most people don’t seem to know what kind of material it is. The same with a knit mink Christian Dior poncho I have. Maybe these items are Naomi adjacent. But Naomi wants others to know that she is wearing bling. I don’t want others to know that I am wearing bling.

Naomi carries bling logo bags. I don’t. I have a few that my mother gave me. But when I carry them, I get too many comments. Almost everybody recognizes bling logo bags from “luxury” brands and pseudo luxury bags. Naomi broadcasts her wealth. She wants everybody to know including the cashier at the supermarket. I have a dozen Hermes canvas bags that I toss around like I don’t care. No logos. My go to bags are beat up Longchamp, which I tie with Hermes scarves.

I also have a lot of vintage pieces from different parts of the world, including well worn expensive French shoes. And vintage American clothes, some with a hint of hippy. This shows that I’m worldy (cosmopolitan) and Californian (relaxed, down to earth) at the same time. I also have four custom made hanbok, a 24k gold norigae, and durumagi (traditional silk over coat).

All the wardrobe styling in Beef is detailed and speaks to character.

George, the house husband who makes phallic turd sculptures, is curated in expensive clothes that lack utilitarian purpose. He’s doesn’t need to work or dress for work. His work is fitting in with Amy’s aesthetics. He’s all optics. Danny and Paul are stuck in a mall that George would never be seen in. Isaac is individualistic.

Much has been said about the slats in Amy’s house that resemble a prison. However, I haven’t seen any commentary about her bathroom, which also looks like a prison latrine, albeit an artistic one. Amy’s home also void of any Asian heritage markers. No shoes lined up at the front door. No rice cooker. No Asian foods. A white person could live in her home. She spent a fortune on designing a home that speaks nothing of her except her sense of imprisonment. Whiteness and artsy Japanese are commodities that Amy pursues. Whiteness for it’s entry into capitalism’s wealth. Artsy Japanese for it’s social and art world currency; and pedigree. She gives her plant business a Japanese sounding name, “Koyo” instead of a Chinese-Viet name or non-ethnic name. When she does point to Asianess, it’s her Japanese American husband and mother-in-law, who are probably 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese Americans. It’s no wonder that Danny initially assumes that her husband is a white man. I would too.

Danny’s home is all working class, first or 1.5 generation Korean immigrant. He and his brother, Paul, eat banchan out of take out containers. There is stuff everywhere. It’s not just the disorder. There’s hoarding. Koreans hoard. My parents hoard. I hoard.

I live in Hancock Park, the other Koreatown that is adjacent to the official Koreatown, but a world away from the Cho brothers. But I relate to the way they live more than I do Amy. Shoes are cluttered at my front door. I have a kimchi refrigerator that I bought during pandemic. Covid-19 and anti-East Asian hate, made me become even more entrenched in my Koreaness. Last year, I started making my own kimchi, fermented soybeans (doenjang), fermented chili paste (gochujang), and traditional soy sauce (Joseon ganjang).

My Korean calligraphy desk is in my living room. The Korean silver and brass spoons, chopsticks, fruit forks, and demitasse spoons my mother gave me are in mahogany silver ware chest along with my American and European silver cutlery. My mother also gave me her traditional Korean cast iron and clay pots. I have a 200 year old antique Korean desk with phoenixes carved into them. It was stained with natural plant dyes and the finish is still brilliant. In other words, my parents are from the former yangban class. I have Korean pedigree and heirlooms.

My husband is a French born Algerian chef and culinary instructor. So we have a lot of North African tagines, Le Creuset, and Staub. Our dinner ware is French and English porcelain, North African clay, and Korean bras and celadon. We kind of have the cookware version of Jordan’s crowns. Except, our own cultures are represented. We didn’t appropriate like Jordan. We didn’t divest of heritage culture like Amy and George.

I speak English like Fumi, George, Amy, or Jordan when I want to. They don’t all speak the same way. I can sound as commanding and demanding as Fumi or Jordan. These are codes I use. However, I can also speak like David Choe’s character, Isaac or Samuel L. Jackson.